Sport for all – the same future for all
In cooperation with partner organizations, UNICEF is currently implementing the project “Sport for All” aimed at children with disabilities.
In just five minutes, seven-year-old Una Samardzija from the Serbian city of Subotica jumped over a vaulting buck several times, walked on a balance beam, and then flawlessly exercised with the stick in the school gym, as instructed by professional trainers.
It was raining outside, so Una and her peers were doing the physical exercises indoors. When the weather is nice, they exercise in the park and do many other activities in the open, such as horse riding or swimming in a pool.
Una’s father Mirko is happy with what his little girl can do with the assistance of professional trainers. Una has autism and partial physical disability, and her father had not been motivating her too much to exercise, believing that some things she just could not do.
“We all think that disability is hindering children to a large extent. But when they manage to do something, then we realise that they can actually do a lot”, says Mirko Samardzija.
Panting, Una briefly adds while passing by: “I like to run so much!”
In cooperation with partner organizations, UNICEF is currently implementing the project “Sport for All” aimed at children with disabilities in the cities of Subotica, Novi Sad, Velika Plana, Cicevac, Aleksinac and Priboj, with the financial support from Vojvodjanska Bank, Telenor and Telenor Bank, as well as thanks to donations by the citizens of Serbia.
Boccia is quite an important sport for children who use wheelchairs and who have never participated in a team sport before.
With the use of special sliders, even children with the most severe disability can compete by pushing down the ball to something that resembles a metal canal. Depending on the angle they choose, the ball goes faster or slower.
Eight-year-old boy with muscle dystrophy, Dragic Vasic from Velika Plana, briefly describes the advantage of one of the most interesting activities for him within the project “Sport for All”.
“Boccia is a very fun game because it is not fast-paced but is played nicely, and one does not have to rush it”, says Dragic with a smile.
“It is very important for children with disabilities to be physically active, because they spend most of their time sitting down and don't develop their bodies as much as they can”, says Tijana Lacarak from the Association for Helping Mentally Challenged Persons in Novi Sad. She adds that physical activity affects not only their physical development but also helps with cognitive and volitional progress.
“Being in a group and interacting with other children has a strong impact on their emotional development”, Lacarak said.
All children in cities and towns where the project is being implemented participate in these sport and recreational activities – children with and children without disabilities.
“This is a good signal for the future and a path that we believe children will continue, thus ensuring social inclusion in the earliest period”, says Snezana Maravic from the Association for Support of Persons with Psychophysical Disorders “Zajedno”.
“We expect that both children with and children without disabilities will have positive experience, and that this will later have an influence on wider inclusion – both in classrooms and in the society. Their positive experience will also have a significant impact on their integration in the society, and also on the psychophysical development of every child, which is of invaluable importance”, says Snezana.
Children with disabilities in Serbia are among the most marginalized and most vulnerable members of the society.
They face constant discrimination, have smaller chances of exercising their rights to health care and education, and have greater chances of experiencing violence, exploitation and abuse compared to children without disabilities.
By creating opportunities for joint play, recreation and sport, UNICEF seeks to contribute to social inclusion of these children.